Unclutter Your Home: Small Victory Style
If I'm being completely honest here, I'm telling you that (before this life-changing kinda year) I was the worst at keeping my home clean. Or cleaning at all for that matter. I have become incredibly comfortable living in complete chaos and clutter. All of my previous attempts to declutter our home ended shortly after I got overwhelmed... and I get overwhelmed very quickly when it comes to anything domestic.
This has been the story of my life since shortly after Jeff and I moved in together back in 2011, and I had to learn (or avoid learning) how to maintain a clean and tidy environment for two people. Most of my early life I was somewhat of a neat freak and a perfectionist. Unfortunately, I quickly abandoned all of that when I moved out of my parent's house and left behind all responsibility for anyone but myself.
Unclutter Your Home | Enough is Enough
However, I've honestly become really over all of this clutter and never being able to find anything, it's annoying. When we first moved in, I had such a vision for this place. I was going to get it all fixed up and painted and get our tiny little studio published in a design magazine or blog.
Fast forward seven years and a very weird but happy apartment expansion from a studio to a 1 bedroom and 1 3/4 bath with a laundry room - yet, I have (until recently) done nothing to show off the true potential of this little place. Luckily that designer-itch within me got super annoying and I finally told myself: Natalie, get your shit together.
My first and very obvious step was to declutter all of the junk from our place - easier said than done. Our place isn't big, it's less than 750 sq. ft., but man this place was packed to the brim with pure junk. Like, say, maybe 400 lbs. worth of stuff that we had to carry out of this place (Jeff and I both guestimated at this, but we came to pretty similar numbers). I think percentage-wise we got rid of 60%-70% of our "belongings" - needless to say, I have been on a freaking mission to do a hard reset on our home.
Unclutter Your Home | The Visual Overwhelm Rule
This is how I realized the miraculously simple and effective rule that put me on the path of the most productive and motivating decluttering project of my life. I self-reflected to determine the reason I am never able to finish any of my decluttering projects and quickly realized that I always give up the moment I get overwhelmed. Like I said before, I get overwhelmed very quickly. Now that I had my number one problem determined, I came up with one principle that would guide me through the whole process. I gave myself a rule that the second I started to create any visual overwhelm, I would do a hard stop and sort out the items that were already pulled out. Rather than pulling *everything* out on the floor to sort through all at once as I did in the past, I instead decided to attack small areas at a time. I had to really consider my levels of motivation vs. overwhelm before I got started.
I first chose the most practical space to declutter first, the tiny closet adjacent to our living area. I chose this closet because I knew I would be getting rid of almost everything in there, not only did I know that it didn't hold anything sentimental, but we also, literally, haven't looked for anything in that closet in years (it's one of those closets).
Unclutter Your Home | Small Victory Style
I should also mention that I (very intentionally) mentally prepared myself beforehand to get rid of *a lot* of stuff. I have decided that I really want to design the apartment in a way that anywhere my eyes decide to land, it would be on items that bring a good or happy thought of something positive. An idea I borrowed from Marie Kondo's inspiring little book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up."
I encourage you to begin with easy areas that also create a lot of storage or visual space so that when you get to the more difficult areas, it will be way less daunting this way. This idea is what gave way to me officially naming this the "small victory style" approach to decluttering.
Unclutter Your Home | Sorting Bins/Containers
This also involved having several categorized bins/containers available beforehand. I then designated the bins for different purposes such as 1) pens, pencils, and markers (I learned I have a lot of these); 2) tools; 3) sentimental items; 4) clothes; 5) electronics and cords; etc.… you get the point. Also, (with the exception of shelves I bought from Wayfair to add shelving inside the closet) I used bins and containers that I already had available for sorting. I decided against accumulating anything new until after I decluttered and had an accurate idea of what we actually needed.
Note: I also didn't designate the bins until I already had items pulled a chunk of items out so that I could scan over everything and identify larger categories that could be sorted.
I bought these awesome little shelves from Wayfair and assembled them first and set them in my temporary organizing space (aka my dining room adjacent to the closet I was tackling). A huge portion of the items pulled were Jeff's old clothes from high school, which looking at visually looked like they would fit me better than him. So with the clothes alone, that was like 25% of the closet already pulled aside to donate/dump.
Unclutter Your Home | The 3 Main Questions
The rest of the items really only involved a small set of questions to decide whether or not they were being kept or removed. I had
three basic questions to determine decide what would be kept vs. trashed/donated:
- Have we used this item in the last year?
- Have we looked for this item in the last year?
- Does this have sentimental value that truly uplifts my or Jeff's mood every time it's utilized or acknowledged?
As I uncluttered our place, I kept to my rule of visual overwhelm. As soon as I felt that all too familiar feeling of drowning, I would do a hard stop, and neatly organize everything I had pulled out in a neat manner. I placed the donation items in large trash bags and labeled them. I placed old junk in trash bags, and returned every item with a designated home to its proper place, even if temporary.
Unclutter Your Home | Visible Progress=Motivation
I made a point to keep things easily manageable. Also, with each hard stop, after sorting the existing items, I did a quick walk-through of our place and pulled larger items that were going to be re-homed in this new closet, so that I would create additional space here and there where it could be created quickly and easily. It was kind of like a purge, sort and organize kind of deal.
I also stuck with the idea of starting with the easy stuff so that when it came to the hard stuff, there would be more space to not only work in but also think in. Something about physical clutter makes my mind also feel cluttered. The whole idea behind the small victory style of uncluttering is that I was also rewarding myself with visible progress.
After starting the uncluttering process this way, I have come to the point where the only part of this apartment that hasn't been addressed is our regular closets. The rest of the apartment, however, has quickly become functional and uncluttered, and in turn has made me feel like I can breathe again in this place. I hope that you will give this method a try if you have had problems with uncluttering like I had. I promise you it is so worth it, and believe me when I say that an uncluttered home truly aids in uncluttering your mind.
Until next time, with love,